Homemade vanilla extract

Have you ever tried making your own vanilla extract? I am going to try it and see how it turns out. I just put a split vanilla bean pod in a jar with a cup of white rum. The recipe I have says to leave it in a cool, dark place for 8 weeks. Then you can keep feeding it, kind of like a sourdough starter, indefinitely.

I will report back in a few weeks.

Blue Bottle waffles, first attempt

After we got the waffle maker, I was wondering if I could recreate the amazing hand-held waffles at Blue Bottle Coffee.

They have this nice crunch of caramelized sugar on the outside, so you don’t need any toppings. After a bit of online research I found this recipe for Belgian liege waffles that seemed like it would work great.

They made it clear that you need to have pearl sugar to get the authentic crunchy sugar bits within the waffle. I looked everywhere, but could not find it (there is something the Berkeley Bowl doesn’t have?!). So eventually I just ordered it online.

The morning I decided to make the waffles I realized too late that I didn’t have enough time to make the yeast batter. So I thought I would just go ahead and use my go-to waffle recipe with the Belgian waffle technique. You mix some pearl sugar into the batter.

Then after you put the batter in the waffle maker, you sprinkle on some granulated sugar that will caramelize the outside.

We realized that the best waffles had tons of sugar on the outside and were nice and crispy.

Our waffles were really tasty, but they didn’t really resemble the Blue Bottle ones. So I went back to the Internet for more advice and discovered that I bought the wrong kind of sugar! I bought the Swedish pearl sugar, but I should have bought the Belgian pearl sugar, which comes in much bigger chunks.

So I guess it’s back to the drawing board, and we will just have to make waffles again.

Angel Island and Tiburon

Though the night before Labor Day was a rough one in the Corey household (Miss Harper is teething), we decided, post-nap, to make the most of the rest of our holiday weekend. We drove to Tiburon in Marin County to catch the ferry to Angel Island.

Harper’s first boat ride!

Though I can’t say it was high on my California to-do list, exploring Angel Island did seem like the perfect affordable day trip for a family with a baby. The Bay Bridge closure made traffic out there worse, but by Monday it was similar to a normal weekend day.

We ended up loving the island and wondering why no one had suggested it before. The views are incredible! And now that I know you can camp there, I definitely want to come back with friends and family (Brianne – adventure club reunion?)

Historically, the island was used to quarantine Asian immigrants and for military purposes several decades ago. So there are some museums and lots of old buildings and housing to check out.

It struck me as the kind of place where haunted souls reside. Kind of fascinating and creepy at the same time.

It is a little sad that the state is so broke it can’t afford to maintain those old buildings. Some of them seem really cool and worth saving. They could certainly use them for tourism.

But there are a lot of nice hiking and biking trails throughout the island. We did a good job of getting lost but eventually found our way.

And man, the payoff is huge. The views are the best I’ve seen anywhere. From one part of the island you get this whole panoramic view of San Francisco and the bridges.

That’s Alcatraz in the middle.

You can just make out the new Bay Bridge in front of the old (ugly) span.

And, the Golden Gate.

I can’t imagine how pretty it is to watch the sun go down while you camp there. I guess that’s why they also do sunset cruises.

I didn’t want to leave, but we caught the last ferry back.

She does this thing now that looks like a wave.

When we got back to Tiburon we got some gelato and admired the views, which are pretty darn good there, too.

Most of our Marin exploration has been of the state park variety, but I’m thinking we need to spend some time in the towns, too. The quirky houseboats in Sausalito are so much fun to check out. So I think we have more adventures ahead.

*And speaking of islands, you should definitely check out my post on Goodsmiths about shopping at the Treasure Island Flea Market. It was amazing and we found so many cool things.